Over half of adult drivers in the U.S. get behind the wheel while drowsy at least once every year, and close to 40% have actually fallen asleep while driving at one time or another. In December 2016, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published a study that compared the safety-related impact of driving while sleepy to the impact of driving while intoxicated. The authors of this study found that if you drive without getting enough sleep, you very well may pose the same danger to yourself and other drivers as someone who drives while legally drunk. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the similarities between sleepy driving and drunk driving.
Alcohol Impairment Vs. Sleep Deprivation
Alcohol consumption starts impairing your body coordination, judgment and reaction time long before you reach a legal state of intoxication. When you’re at or near the drunkenness threshold, you’ll commonly experience impaired reflexes, as well as significant declines in your ability to think clearly, focus your attention, accurately perceive depth and distance, use your peripheral vision, or recover from the visual effects of glare from vehicle headlights and other sources. Sleep deprivation produces many of the same functional problems as alcohol impairment and legal drunkenness. Specifically, when sleep-deprived, you also experience a declining ability to pay attention, react quickly to changing circumstances and/or think clearly.
Drunk Driver Statistics Vs. Drowsy Driving Statistics
Drunk driver statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 31% of all fatal vehicles crashes in the U.S. are alcohol-related. This statistic highlights the need for alcohol abuse treatment. In comparison, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety notes that anywhere from 16% to 21% of all fatal crashes involve a sleepy or sleep-deprived driver. For adults, the typical sleep requirement is seven hours a night. If you try to drive after sleeping for just four or five hours, you have roughly the same chance of getting involved in an accident as someone trying to drive while at or just over the threshold of legal intoxication (a blood alcohol level of 0.08). If you try to drive after sleeping for less than four hours, you have the same chance of crashing as someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.12 to 0.15, well above the threshold for legal drunkenness.